Current group members
Dr Lewis Alcott
I'm a biogeochemist interested in answering multidisciplinary questions associated with Earth surface processes and events including past, present and future environmental change.
I am a geomicrobiologist specializing in microbes that use iron as an energy source. I combine approaches from geochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology to understand how these microbes influence the biogeochemistry of sediments, soils, peatlands, and ancient oceans.
My expertise is in low-temperature geochemistry and geomicrobiology and my research focuses on chemical weathering and mineral nutrient cycling in Earth’s Critical Zone.
My research explores the links between magnetism and microbial processes in the environment supported by my multidisciplinary background in physics, geomicrobiology and environmental mineralogy.
My research centres on the global carbon cycle: from quantifying sources and sinks today, to understanding how climate interacted with these sources and sinks in the past, to documenting how all this was manifested in past atmospheric CO2 levels and temperatures. I apply a range of methods spanning metal(loid) isotopes in marine sediments and modern critical zone settings, to micropalaeontological methods in the fossil record. I have worked a lot in developing isotopic and trace metal proxies for ocean chemistry, atmospheric CO2 and temperature in foraminifera, and am increasingly exploring the potential for siliceous fossils to provide similar archives further back in time. This proxy development work involves live cultures of foraminifera and radiolarians, and calibration using modern sediments and plankton samples. I’m particularly interested in applying these climate and carbon cycle proxies to the greenhouse worlds of the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic – periods of high pCO2 and temperature that provide useful lessons for our potential future Earth.
I’m an organic biogeochemist at the Organic Geochemistry Unit, specialising in using organic geochemical techniques to investigate climatic and biogeochemical processes in ancient and modern environments. My interdisciplinary research is driven by my desire and curiosity to understand the natural processes and mechanisms that influence Life and operate in Earth’s climate system. My approach is based on the rigorous application of state-of-the-art isotopic and organic mass spectrometry to study lipids and molecular fossils (biomarkers) derived from organisms across the three Domains of life, accumulated in modern and ancient natural archives from both the marine and terrestrial realm. By using climatological and biogeochemical information recorded in the lipids of organisms and preserved in the geological record I aim to answer long-standing questions related to the processes and mechanisms that drive changes in climate and biogeochemistry.
My expertise is in organic geochemistry and I am co-lead of Bristol's Organic Geochemistry Unit
. We can use the organic matter in soils, sediments, rocks and water to investigate a vast range of modern and ancient processes - and I do! But I am particularly interested in using biomarkers and their carbon and hydrogen isotopes to reconstruct past climate and biogeochemical processes across all timescales.
I am an environmental mineralogist and soil chemist interested in redox processes and mineral transformation in soils, sediments, and groundwater.
Professor Laura Robinson
Drawing on samples collected through field work, ocean exploration and geochemistry, my research team is looking at the interactions between oceans and climate in the modern and the past. We apply a diverse range of geochemical analyses to deep sea corals including uranium series, radiocarbon and trace metal approaches. The data reveal unique insights into the links between deep ocean biogeochemistry and global climate, as well as the vulnerability of deep-sea ecosystems in a changing world.
Professor Fiona Whitaker
My research team works on interactions between groundwater biogeochemistry, hydrogeology and water-rock interactions, with a particular focus on carbonate systems. We couple fieldwork with process-based modelling, including fluid flow, geochemical and reactive transport modelling, to quantify key processes and evaluate fundamental controls. We study systems ranging from freshwater tufa and lake sediments to marine and evaporitic systems, using what we learn from modern systems to interpret the rock record and help manage aquifers and reservoirs.
Dr Caitlyn Witkowski
I investigate the co-evolution of life and Earth, especially how climate, the carbon cycle, ecology, and depositional environments impact one another over geologic time using organic geochemistry and stable isotopes. My current focus is on Palaeozoic mass extinction events, looking for similarities that lead to radical and catastrophic moments in Earth history, relevant for our rapidly changing planet today.
Current postgraduate research students
Dr Frances Cooper
I study the mechanics of large-scale continental deformation and the evolution of orogenic systems, including the Himalaya, the Andes, and the Western US Cordillera. Through an ongoing collaboration with the mining company, BHP, I have a particular interest in the tectonic controls on porphyry copper deposits.
Dr Kate Hendry
I am a biogeochemist and chemical oceanographer, interested in understanding nutrient cycling in the modern ocean, and the link between past climatic change, ocean circulation, nutrient supply and biological productivity.